Katherine and Scipio – I

I’m going to try to tell a story. Be warned – there’s no happy ending.


This is Katherine’s August 9 1741 baptismal record as entered by the Reverend Joseph Emerson in his ledger for the Topsfield Church. Katherine was a “Negro servant maid” who was held as a slave by Joseph Porter. Joseph Porter lived with his wife and children in Salem Village – just across the border from Topsfield. The farmland he owned is now part of Connors Farm and the house he lived in is now known as the Porter-Bradstreet House in what is now Danvers. You can see pictures of the house on the Danvers Archival Center website.

Joseph Porter had inherited the farm from his father. Five years before Katherine’s baptism, he had married Elizabeth Perkins of Topsfield in her home church. Their children, however, were baptized in the Salem Village church.

So why wasn’t Katherine baptized in the Salem Village church as well? What I know, as of now, is that the Salem Vital Records show only eight baptisms of “Negro servants” before the 1770 and the Topsfield’s VR shows 20. I also know that of those twenty Topsfield baptisms, fifteen occurred in the 1740s.

So perhaps the Rev. Emerson or the church elders were more willing or insistent on the baptism of “Negro servants” than the minister or elders in Salem Village. Perhaps it simply wasn’t worth the trip to Salem Village to get Katherine baptized.

Tomorrow: Katherine gets married.

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